Presidential Candidates Need to Get the Facts Straight on Syrian Refugees, World Relief Head Says

Stephen Bauman, president and CEO of World Relief, speaking at The Justice Conference, Philadelphia, Penn., Feb. 23, 2013.
Stephen Bauman, president and CEO of World Relief, speaking at The Justice Conference, Philadelphia, Penn., Feb. 23, 2013. | (Photo: The Christian Post/Napp Nazworth)

Presidential candidates are misleading the American public with the wrong facts on the Syrian refugee crisis and causing many to fear that accepting refugees will make the United States vulnerable to terrorist infiltration, the head of a prominent Evangelical refugee relief organization said.

Stephen Bauman, the president and CEO of World Relief, one of nine national agencies authorized by the U.S. State Department to resettle refugees in the United States, told The Christian Post in a Friday interview that the reality behind bringing Syrian refugees to the U.S. is nothing like what some of the 2016 presidential candidates are leading people to believe.

During Wednesday night's Fox Business GOP presidential undercard debate, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is also a Baptist pastor, contended that the U.S. should not take in Syrian refugees. Along with citing economic concern, Huckabee reasoned that "we don't have any idea who these people are" and added that letting Syrian refugees into the country would "open the door so that ISIS people will come in."

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Huckabee is not the only person who believes that ISIS could infiltrate refugee communities and try to enter the U.S. through the resettlement process. Billionaire presidential candidate Donald Trump issued a similar sentiment, echoing the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who warned in September that he wouldn't "put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees." Trump said that Syrian refugees could just be a "plot" or "coups" to help Islamic State militants get in the country.

"This could be one of the great military coups of all time if they send them to our country," Trump argued in October.

Bauman warned that the statements issued by Trump and Huckabee and some of the other candidates discouraging Syrian resettlement in the United States are simply based on fear and not facts.

"I have been traveling the country quite a bit in the last few months and I have been to a lot of churches and a lot of good people and definitely the fear factor on the radical elements of Islam coming into our country through the refugee program is certainly out there," Bauman said. "But if you look at the 35 years of refugee resettlement in our nation, over three million since the mid to late 70s, and there has been no one from that group of people that are terrorists or have carried out a terrorist attack.

Bauman, who heads the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, also said that the vetting process through the State Department and FBI takes anywhere from 18 months to two years for refugees to be granted asylum in the United States.

He added that the process is so extensive that it would be easier for an aspiring terrorist to find another way into the country rather than trying to infiltrate the resettlement process.

"If there are radical elements that come into our country, and I am sure there are, the last place they would want to seek entry is through the refugee program because it is so sealed tight from a security perspective," Bauman asserted. "The claim that we don't know who these people are is in fact, just not at all how the system works. United Nations vets these people, they come to our State Department. There is never an incident of a refugee coming in through our system and there is no other way for them to come without them being fully identified and fully vetted."

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